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Muzzling

A Summer Break from Campus Muzzling by George F. Will.

Commencement season brings a respite from the sinister childishness rampant on campuses. Attacks on freedom of speech come from the professoriate, that herd of independent minds, and from the ever-thickening layer of university administrators who keep busy constricting freedom in order to fine-tune campus atmospherics.

The attacks are childish because they infantilize students who flinch from the intellectual free-for-all of adult society. When Brown University’s tranquility of conformity was threatened by a woman speaker skeptical about the “rape culture” on campuses, students planned a “safe space” for those who would be traumatized by exposure to skepticism. Judith Shulevitz, writing in The New York Times, reported that the space had “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.”

The attack on free expression is sinister because it asserts that such freedom is not merely unwise but, in a sense, meaningless. Free speech is more comprehensively and aggressively embattled now than ever before in American history, largely because of two 19th-century ideas. One is that history – actually, History, a proper noun – has a mind of its own. The other is that most people do not really have minds of their own.

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